Dump truck driver charged with killing four takes stand

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PHOENIX -- Michael Jakscht, the dump truck driver charged with killing four motorcyclists when he plowed into them last March, took the stand in his manslaughter trial Thursday and denied taking illegal drugs.

Five others were injured in the fiery crash on the Carefree Highway on March 25, 2010.

Prosecutors allege Jakscht was high on methamphetamine when he failed to brake in time and ran over the group of bikers. They say drug tests show a high level of the substance in his system.

On Thursday, Jakscht told jurors he'd never consumed or smoked methamphetamine in his life and said the only substances he took in the days before the crash were ibuprofen and diet pills.

He did not initially tell police about the diet pills, which he said he believed were called "Pro Slim." He said he obtained them from a woman who was renting a room in his house.

"I didn't see that as medication," he said on the stand.

According to court paperwork, Jakscht had a high pulse rate and dilated pupils at the scene. Prosecutors say he performed poorly on a field sobriety test, something Jakscht attributed to shock and being injured himself.

"I was in shock. I was numb," Jakscht told jurors.

Jakscht also testified he believed the brakes on his truck may have been malfunctioning.

"They were pulling to the left," he said. He testified before a courtroom filled with family members and friends of the victims.

Jason Anania was one of five people badly injured in the crash. He testified at the beginning of the trial nearly two months ago but said he chose not to be in court for Jakscht's testimony because it was too difficult emotionally.

"There's anger and rage and pain and loss and sadness," Anania said.

He and the other victims said they don't buy Jakscht's story about diet pills.

"I don't see how any diet pill... you'd have to take an entire bottle to get that effect, it's obviously grasping at straws, it's a joke," he said.

Closing arguments are set to begin Friday.